USACM Statement on SOPA and PROTECT IP

This week, as opposing views on the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011 (S. 968, the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA – H.R. 3261), come increasingly increasingly into focus—Wikipedia and other opposing organizations stage a blackout, the Motion Picture Association of America and News Corp. state their support of the bills, and the White House calls for a back-to-the-drawing board approach—it is important that we take a look at the facts surrounding these pieces of legislation and the reality that would result should these bills become law in their current draft form. While there are several areas of concerns with these bills, USACM is in a position to comment specifically on the technological aspects of these proposed pieces of legislation. Those aspects are the focus of USACM’s efforts in this area.

With a membership whose professional output relies on sound, enforceable intellectual property rights, USACM supports reasonable efforts to address criminal violations of intellectual property rights, but the technological mandates required in both SOPA and PIPA cause grave concern. In letters submitted this week to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, USACM outlines our analyses the technological impact of both PIPA and SOPA, concluding that the bills’ approach to disrupting rogue sites by removing them from indexing and search sites will prove problematic and ineffective.

Furthermore, the portions of the legislation dealing with DNS (Domain Name System), would undermine years of sound technical work by the international community as well as inhibit substantial progress made by many parties, including the federal government, to address security flaws in the existing DNS system. Any actions that interfere with or weaken any aspect of DNSSEC (DNS Security Extensions), a foundation for Internet security, should be viewed with grave concern. That is why USACM is encouraged by recent statements from the sponsors of SOPA and PIPA, Rep. Lamar Smith and Senator Patrick Leahy, that the provisions on DNS blocking will be reconsidered, if not removed from the bills.

The proposed legislation, including the manager’s amendment in SOPA, will impose significant negative consequences on the proper functioning of DNS, and especially with the ongoing implementation of DNSSEC. The bill’s approach would ultimately prove ineffective in addressing the legislation’s goals, which are already easily bypassed, would impose cost burdens on innocent third parties, and would interfere with progress in reducing on-line fraud and espionage.

After thorough analysis, USACM echoes the White House’s sentiments that any proposed laws “must not tamper with the technical architecture of the Internet through manipulation of DNS.” When addressing online piracy, legislation should seek to avoid technological mandates. Computing technology evolves quickly, and innovations often render technologies moot before legislation has time to be fully implemented. Mandated technological approaches, such as those outlined in SOPA and PIPA, are likely to be rendered obsolete in short order and may in fact chill or prevent research and innovation in the U.S., while having little impact on U.S. competitors and domestic firms outside the U.S. Given the current economy and the vital role being played by information technology firms, such potential outcomes should be carefully considered.

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